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Q & A: Are gamma rays harmful?

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Most recent answer: 11/04/2013
Q:
why are gamma rays harmful
- max (age 13)
texas
A:
Gamma rays can interact with cells in the body and make them non functional or they can mess up a cell's DNA and cause mutations when it divides.  There are many, many cells in the body so you can lose some of them without any harm.   If you lose too many you can get sick or with massive doses, can die.    There is always a small amount of background radiation coming from cosmic rays from outer space and from radioactive nucleii found in the earth's environment.  Directed gamma radiation is used in many cancer treatments. 
Here is US EPA web site that has lots of useful information on gamma ray radiation. 
The ever useful Wikipedia has some more: 
LeeH
In some cases, even when  the cell death is not so widespread as to cause illness, the mutations in some cell can turn it cancerous. Mike W.

(published on 06/03/2008)

Follow-Up #1: Is visible light harmful?

Q:
Why is visable light harmful?
- kaelynn (age 13)
texas
A:

Like most things, visible light in moderate doses is not harmful.  Picking up visible light is how you can see objects.   And like most things, too much visible light is harmful.  Imagine shining a laser beam directly into your eye.  Not good.  

 

LeeH


(published on 11/04/2013)

Follow-up on this answer.